The situation turned ugly quickly, after a fumble allowed the Texans a touchdown on a short field and a questionable spot cost the Cardinals a game-clinching first down, but the Cardinals were in many ways right where they wanted to be with two minutes left Sunday.
It was the defense standing between victory and disappointment, and “that’s who we want on the field,” coach Bruce Arians said.
Only a few plays elapsed before the Cardinals owned a 27-24 win over the Houston Texans at University of Phoenix Stadium, yet the outcome is becoming predictable. The only points scored by Houston in the second half came after that turnover late, and there is little question why the Cards (5-4) have moved over .500 for the season.
“We played against the number one (ranked) defense (in the NFL) today,” Cardinals quarterback
Arians stressed it was a team victory, and there were aspects of that. Palmer played a steady game (20-for-32, 241 yards, two touchdowns, one
Yet from the time the games started and linebacker
“We are a confident bunch,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We know that if we do our job to the best of our ability, we have a pretty good, strong opportunity to win the game.”
The road wasn’t straight. Keenum rallied to play a good first half, and two spectacular toe-tapping touchdowns from Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson frustrated the Cardinals. So too did three-should-have-been-interceptions from linebackers
But in the second half, Keenum was just 7-for-17 for 42 yards and while the Cardinals ended up with just three sacks, they harassed the young quarterback making just his third start enough to render him moot.
“We have an extremely smart, intelligent defensive staff,” Peterson said. “We just went to a little bit more man-to-man pressure to make Case beat us. We knew he couldn’t beat us throwing the ball into tight coverages.”
The Cardinals built a 10-point lead with a decent offense and a touchdown drive straight out of the this-is-how-we-want-to-do-it script, a nine-play march with four runs, two well-executed screen passes and then a perfect 19-yard touchdown bomb to Roberts to beat the all-out blitz.
“I think we’re getting into our own little rhythm,” guard
The game was all but over when the Cards got the ball back inside their own 10 with less than five minutes left. But running back
The defense took care of that, though, sending the Texans (2-7) to a seventh straight loss. The Cardinals, meanwhile, visit 1-8 Jacksonville next week with a chance to win a third straight.
“We pride ourselves on playing good ball,” Washington said. “I thought we started out fast and kind of got conservative. But second half, we had a whole (new) demeanor to ourselves. We said, ‘Seventeen points is the max.’ No more points to be scored. I thought we really stood up as a defense.”